When it comes to fashion, there’s no Italian city more forward-thinking than Milan. Brands like Prada, Armani, and Versace were either born or rose to prominence here. In the art world, Milan is perhaps best known for Leonardo Da Vinci's "The Last Supper” as well as a number of other cultural landmarks like the Duomo di Milano.
Being in Milan can feel fairly different than being in any other Italian city because it has a much more modern, commercial feel to it than that of art-centred cities with classical architecture and cobblestone streets. However, Milan too is steeped in tradition and there are pockets of the city that can transport visitors back into another time period.
Fun fact: Some of the locals can speak Milanese.
When To Visit Milan And How Long To Stay
Spring and autumn are the best seasons to visit Milan, especially towards the end of February/September when Milan Fashion Week takes place. It is rare that you will be able to see any celebrities or attend any fashion shows, but this is, nonetheless, a great time to visit Milan. The weather is also quite pleasant during these months; neither too hot nor too cold.
We suggest planning at least 2 full days in Milan (a third is ideal). This will allow you to make the most of the city. If you plan to do a day-trip to Lake Como, set aside at least 3 days in Milan and use the city as your base for Lake Como.
Transportation To And Within Milan
There are two airports where you might fly into: Malpensa Airport and Bergamo Airport.
Malpensa is 56 kilometres from the city center and there are trains at both terminals that go to the central stations. Alternatively, you can take a bus that also stops in the city center. It takes under an hour and costs between 8 and 10 euros for a ticket.
The Bergamo airport is approximately 60 kilometres from Milan’s city center. Bus services operate from outside the arrivals hall (remember to buy your ticket before exiting). The journey is about 1 hour and costs 5 euros one-way.
Within Milan, you have your pick of transportation: tram, bus, subway, and your own two feet. Getting around is very affordable throughout the city. Tickets can be purchased within the station or on a mobile app (ATM Milano). A day ticket gives you unlimited travel for 24 hours and costs 4.5 euros, whereas a single ticket costs 1.5 euros. Most major attractions can be reached on foot, and walking is a great way to tour the city.
Milan’s Must-See Sights
Duomo Di Milano
One simply cannot visit Milan without seeing The Duomo—it's the third largest cathedral in the world and the most recognizable landmark in the city. This stunning cathedral was commissioned in 1385 by Bishop Antonio de Saluzzo and the first duke of Milan, Gian Galeazzo Visconti. Construction took place until 1813, within finishing touches applied as recently as 1965. The church, which is dedicated to St. Mary of the Nativity, is open daily from 8am to 7pm. You can also purchase a ticket to visit the crypt of St. Charles, located inside the cathedral. Be sure to visit the rooftop as well via the staircase (€6) or elevator (€10). On a clear day, you can see as far as the Alps and Apennines.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
This major shopping center is the oldest of its kind in Italy and located right by the Duomo di Milano. The Gallerina is named after the first king of the Kingdom of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II. Today, the four-story double arcade is a major shopping hub. The iron-and-glass roof is a must-see.
Santa Maria Delle Grazie
Included in the UNESCO World Heritage sites list, the Santa Maria delle Grazie is a church and Dominican convent in Milan. It’s a major tourist attraction because the church contains the Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous mural of “The Last Supper.”
Note that this can only be viewed with a booking made at least two weeks in advance (sometimes two months in advance in the busier months). If you arrive at the Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan expecting to see the painting without a reservation, you will not be able to. Journy can help you make the proper arrangements ahead of time.
Teatro Alla Scala
Teatro alla Scala is an 18th-century grand opera house located across the street from the Leonardo da Vinci museum. The very first performance after it’s inauguration in 1778 was Antonio Salieri’s Europa riconosciuta.
This 15th century castle was built by Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza and was later renovated and enlarged in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is one of the largest citadels in Europe and is open to the public daily, except for Mondays.
Top Local Delicacies To Try
Risotto Alla Milanese
This yummy dish is milanese risotto cooked with saffron. It’s usually yellow in color. It’s an Italian classic, especially in Milan.
Cotoletta Alla Milanese
Along with Risotto alla milanese, Cotoletta alla Milanese is one of Milan’s signature dishes. It’s a fried veal cutlet and usually served for lunch.
Usually a dish enjoyed in winter, Cassoeula is a braised pork dish with savoy cabbage. This stew-like meal is served hot.
Ossobuco Alla Milanese
Another Milan specialty, Ossobuco alla Milanese is a cross-cut veal shank braised in white wine and broth. It’s usually served with Risotto or polenta.
These are real Italian meatballs. Every region of Italy has their own unique spin on the mondeghili recipe, and Milan is no exception.
Must-Try Food And Drink
A great spot for dinner and drinks, Lacerba serves modern Italian fish and seafood dishes. The decor is simple but tasteful, with exposed pipework and columned arches. Perfect for romantic dinners out.
According to Lonely Planet, this is the last of the historic ‘osterie’ (casual taverns) that once lined the alley. It’s a local favorite and is a go-to spot for reasonably-priced wine by the glass, and traditional Italian dishes like pork sausages and horse meatballs.
Enjoy an elegant dining experience at The Four Seasons’ restaurant, La Veranda. It’s on the pricier side but well worth it. The menu veers toward innovative Mediterranean fare and the decor is chic, with lottos natural light streaming through the windows.
Bar BAH For arguably the best cocktails in town, pull up a chair at Bar BAH. The bar, which opened in 2016, is inspired by the speakeasies of New York. The vibe is hipster, and is a great place for before dinner drinks and light snacks.
For a bird’s eye view of Milan, head to The Terrazza Martini in the city center. It’s on the top floor of a skyscraper and offers views of the Duomo di Milano and other historic landmarks. A nice reward after a day of sightseeing.
Visit the Duomo di Milano in the late evening
Despite how crowded the Duomo is, there are very few crowds in the evening. Touch the elaborate carvings on the front doors of the Cathedral and somewhere on the middle door is a hand-sized Jesus statuette with an arm rubbed to a golden sheen, likely from people "shaking" his hand.
Visit Leonardo Da Vinci's Vineyard
This is one of the lesser known experiences to have in Milan, and one of our personal favorites. Thanks to his patron, Duke Ludovico Sforza, Leonardo lived here for several years, including the period when he painted “The Last Supper.”
Attend An Opera At The Teatro Alla Scala
The likes of Pavarotti have performed at the Scala and it is one of the most famous theatres in the world. Either buy an entrance ticket during the day or splurge on an evening performance, where you’ll see the opera house in all its luminous glory.
This area is located in southwest Milan, around a group of interconnected canals such as Naviglio Grande, Pavese, Martesana, Bereguardo, and Paderno. Taking its name from the neighboring Naviglio Grande canal, Navigli/Darsena is a young, trendy neighborhood where fashionistas rub elbows with bohemians at the casual-chic shops, street markets, hip bars, and flower-filled courtyards. This is a fabulous place for aperitivi and cocktails, especially at Bar da Rita, which is tucked away on Via Angelo Fumagalli around the corner from the canal.
Formerly a working-class neighborhood, Brera has transformed into a hub for artists and bohemians—it’s a must-see if you’re visiting Milan. Located between the Santa Maria delle Grazie and the Duomo, its narrow streets are packed with restaurants, cafes, and boutiques selling ladies clothing, bric-a-brac, and antiques. Don’t forget to look up as you stroll around—people who live in the buildings above the shops adorn their balconies with flowers. You’ll also find what’s arguably Milan’s best art museum here: the Pinacoteca Brera.
Pinacoteca Ambrosiana is home to an incredible collection of Renaissance masterpieces donated by Cardinal Federico Borromeo in 1618 (shortly after he founded the Biblioteca Abrosiana in 1607). Here, you’ll find art such as The Adoration of the Magi by Titian, The Musician by Leonardo, and Vases of Flowers by Jan Brueghel. Though much of the collection focuses on Renaissance paintings, there are works from the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries on display. Located in old, Central Milan, this collection is a must-visit for art history lovers.
While you're in Brera, stop by the Botanical Garden as well. This lush, 5000-square-meter oasis that boasts over 300 plant species. Originally conceived by the Jesuits as an orchard and a medicinal garden, it's divided into three sections of narrow flower beds, elliptical ponds, and a lawn surrounded by trees (including one of the oldest Ginkgo biloba trees in Europe). On the northern side of the garden is the gorgeous greenhouse that dates back to the 19th century. Admission is free.
A district with many gallery cafes, Eritrean restaurants, second-hand designer shops, and the park Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli.
A creative center for designers and fashion enthusiasts. Zona Tortona is also home to the Armani/Silos museum and the Museo delle Culture di Milano.
This is one of Milan’s most lively neighborhoods, and you’ll find many chic bars and trendy shops here, as well as The Fondazione Prada.
Isola has transformed over the years from a working class district secluded from the heart of Milan, into a vibrant, diverse area that exudes a neighborhood vibe. Here you'll find endless boutiques and speciality stores, along with colorful street art and markets. When you work up an appetite, make a beeline straight for Ratanà, one of the best restaurants in Milan that happens to be nearby. Helmed by Milan-born chef Cesare Battisti and his partner/sommelier Federica Fabi, the restaurant epitomizes modern Milanese cuisine. Not hungry for a full meal? Make a pit-stop at Artico Gelateria for a scoop of artisanal, handmade gelato.